An Army sergeant and father of three from Rhode Island who gave his life to save an Afghan child from being run over by a 16-ton armored fighting vehicle is being flown back to the U.S. and will be buried Monday.
Sgt. Dennis Weichel, 29, died in Afghanistan last week after he dashed into the path of an armored fighting vehicle to scoop up the little girl, who had darted back into the roadway to pick up shell casings, according to the Army. Weichel, a Rhode Island National Guardsman, was riding in the convoy in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan when he jumped out to save the girl, who was unhurt.
“He would have done it for anybody,” Staff Sgt. Ronald Corbett, who deployed with Weichel to Iraq in 2005, said in a quote posted on the U.S. Army website. “That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was that type of guy.”
The child was one of several who were collecting the casings, which can be sold and recycled in Afghanistan. Weichel and other soldiers in the convoy got out of their vehicles to shoo the kids from danger as the heavy trucks bore down. But the girl ran back onto the road as a MRAP, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, approached. Weichel swung the girl to safety but was run over and later died from his injuries at Jalalabad Medical Treatment Facility, according to a press release from the Rhode Island National Guard.
Weichel, who had been a member of the Rhode Island National Guard since 2001, had arrived in Afghanistan a few weeks ago. He was a member of C Company, 1st Battalion, 143 Infantry. Weichel was previously deployed to Iraq in 2005 as a member of 3/172 Det 2 Mountain Infantry.
Weichel, who lived in Providence and was engaged to be married, leaves his parents, fiancee and three young children. His body is scheduled to be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday. Weichel will be buried in Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter.
“Tragically, Spc. Weichel has made the supreme sacrifice and at this time, we are mindful of the impact of that sacrifice on his family and friends," said Maj. Gen. Kevin McBride, adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard, in a written statement. "We leave no Soldier behind.... and we will not leave Spc. Weichel’s family behind.”